Hungry Man: Jimmy Blewett Ready To Hunt For Whelen Mod Tour Success With Mystic Missile

Jimmy Blewett measuring tires Saturday morning at Thompson Speedway.

Jimmy Blewett measuring tires Saturday morning at Thompson Speedway.

THOMPSON – At 9:55 a.m. Saturday morning the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour tire area at Thompson Speedway was devoid of series drivers, besides one.

While crew members worked to prepare tires for Saturday qualifying and Sunday’s season opening Icebreaker 150, there was Jimmy Blewett, tape measure in hand, working with his new teammates on Bob Garbarino’s Mystic Missile Racing team.

Garbarino, who named Blewett as his driver for the 2016 season less than two weeks ago, was hardly surprised.

“He’s in it,” Garbarino said. “He’s been at the shop for three days now. He wants to be part of it. It isn’t that it won’t get done if he’s not there, but he wants to be part of this team and he wants to fit in and he’s starting at the wrench level and working his way up to the seat so to speak. I think that’s good.”

Blewett, of Howell, N.J., had planned on running part-time in 2016 on the Whelen Modified Tour with a family owned team, until the opportunity with Garbarino’s team came along. Blewett replaces Todd Szegedy, who left the Mystic Missile team in the offseason after one season driving for Garbarino.

“I feel like the chances you get to drive a car like Bob’s or Ed Partridge’s, where you just show up and drive them, those chances are pretty much slim to none anymore,” Blewett said. “Hopefully I can take everything I’ve learned in the last 15 years and put it all to good use and get Bob’s car up front.”

The 35-year old Blewett has made 105 career Whelen Modified Tour starts dating back to the 2001 season. He has five career victories on the series, all coming while driving for Partridge’s TS Haulers team from 2005 – 2009. His last series win came on Aug. 8, 2008 at Stafford Motor Speedway.

He last ran full-time with the series in 2012, operating his own family run team. He made six starts for the team in 2013. His last series start came on Aug. 15, 2013 at Thompson Speedway.

Blewett said it’s nice to have the pressure of overseeing his team off, but said pressure is a given no matter the situation.

“Pressure really doesn’t bother me,” Blewett said. “If you don’t have any pressure something is wrong. That’s the excitement of it.

“Where I usually came here and drove the truck into the pit area and figured out how to get the guys to the hotel, figured out who was eating where, who was getting in, if everybody signed in, who was doing what job. That’s off me now. We’re figuring out who is meant for what job for our team this year, but I’d say about 80 percent of the payload is off of me. As the driver I still have the responsibilities in being a team leader. Even though you have a crew chief you have to set the precedence for your team and your guys look up to you. You have to somewhat have that little bit of pressure, but that doesn’t bother me too much.”

Garbarino said he senses a hunger already in Blewett beyond the norm. Blewett has never finished better than eighth in the series standings. Garbarino’s team, a fixture on the Whelen Modified Tour since its inception in 1985, has been a perennial championship contender. Garbarino has three championships, two with driver Donny Lia (2007, 2009) and one with Bobby Santos III (2010).

“This place right here creates a hunger in you that we both understand,” Garbarino said. “I don’t want that to be a pressure, but I can see it with him. The subject comes up, unfinished business is what comes up. I would like it to be finished business for him and maybe we can do something good and it will be finished business for him.”

Said Blewett: “I feel I’ve always been hungry, but I feel like maybe early on when I was younger I might not have had the discipline that was needed. When I came with my own car I was disciplined and hungry for it. It’s just, this isn’t an easy series. To come in and try to run the whole deal by yourself, I had some good help from friends, but to try to do it like that, it was hard.”

Blewett said making himself an integral part of the team, beyond just the guy that puts on the helmet and turns the wheel, is something ingrained in him.

“You’ve just got to do what it takes to win races and get out there and do good,” Blewett said. “I’ve always been known as a fighter. I’ll work as hard as I can and I won’t go down without a fight. My grandfather is not a low pressure type of guy. He wants nothing but the best out of you and he expects it no matter if it’s in the tire area, or setting your car up to what your trailer looks like and how you present yourself. He wants the best every single time. I’ve just always learned that you have to do what it takes. If there’s a little void that needs to be filled and you’re standing there get in there and help. In the end the more you know about what’s going on with your team and your car as a driver that will better your chances at making the team gel and getting your car and everything to work the way it needs to.”

As far as chasing a championship, it’s a topic neither Blewett or Garbarino want to talk too much about yet. Garbarino’s history in the sport automatically puts them in the contender group of those seemingly chasing championship favorite Doug Coby and his Mike Smeriglio Racing team, which has won the last two series titles.

“It’s real early to really think about that,” Blewett said. “Our focus is to finish every race and build off of the first one. It’s going to be a tough weekend for us. I think there’s a lot of other people trying to put some pressure on us, voting for us to win a championship and picking us to set fast time. It’s not anything that’s out of the question. You’ve got to be in it to win it. We’ve got to try to work the gremlins out the first couple races and hopefully there’s not a lot of them.

“Doug is only human, he puts his shoes on one foot at a time just like the rest of us in this pit area. Luck plays a big factor. I feel like if luck is on our side and we gel good and get comfortable and start running good right off the bat, even if we don’t win the most amount of races, or even win any races, if we’re there the whole year that will put us in position in the end. Right now our main focus is to get ourselves through the first three and keep ourselves focused until the end.”

Said Garbarino of Coby and his team: “I think where they are, they’ve earned. I’m just going to do my best to be one step better. They’re great guys, I get along with them all. I want to beat them.”

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